The Good The Dell Inspiron 13z is a slim, low-cost 13-inch laptop with performance to match more-expensive systems.
The Bad The plastic body feels cheap, as do the ports flaps and small touch pad.
The Bottom Line With the same CPU as you find in ultrabooks that cost a lot more, the Dell Inspiron 13z is a budget laptop that holds its head up high.
Dell Inspiron 13z
Dell's re-imagined Inspiron line continues to push the boundaries of what one can expect from this long-standing mainstream/budget laptop family. For years, an Inspiron was a bulky plastic box designed to offer competent computing at a reasonable price, with the added bonus of wide-ranging customization options, but many of the newer models have enough style to appeal beyond simply bargain hunters.
The new Inspiron 13z is not the thinnest, lightest, fanciest 13-inch laptop you'll find this year, but it's close to being the best balance of price, design, and components for price-conscious shoppers. At $699, you get a standard mainstream 13-inch laptop loadout, highlighted by a low-voltage Intel Core i5 CPU.
It's the low(er)-budget cousin of this year's crop of thin 13-inch ultrabooks, but manages to still look upscale and svelte at the same time, as long as you don't look too closely to see its smudge-prone plastic lid or cheap-feeling plastic port covers.
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As we review laptops throughout 2012, we'll add their battery life stats here. If battery's the most important thing to you, this is the place to look.